Creative Combustion: Now Available

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I’m a bit late to the party about writing up a blog post about this, but back in August of this year I debuted a project that I had been working on since February of 2015, and planning ever since I wrote up my last blog entry, you know, the one from almost two years ago. Well, for once I have an excuse for the gap in my posts, and here it is! The project is called Creative Combustion, and it features 18 artists who are either from, or located in, Minneapolis. The exhibition was hosted by Gamut Gallery and its wonderful staff, who documented the opening night in a facebook album. There is a print edition which is available for purchase from Blurb and a web version where you can view all of the essays and photos for free on Medium, both links are below. If you’re curious about what this all is, read on for full project information.

Links to Creative Combustion

Print edition

Web edition

Press Release

City Pages Mpls Article

About This Project

***This description is taken from the book***

What we might know about an artist’s work, regardless of the medium, often stems from our own perception of that work as a viewer. With prior knowledge of the artist’s intent, we can skew our perception to match closer to that of the artist’s vision. We bring in our own meaning to a piece, drawing from our own ideas, opinions, and life experiences. We also draw in the message that the artist had intended for their viewers to think about and create for ourselves a story behind the artwork and why it is — or isn’t — something that we relate to. However, while each viewer is entitled to his or her own perception of art, how often has an in-depth look at what makes that artist tick, what drives them to create their works, been examined? Responses to the question “What inspires you?” are met with only a short discussion, leaving the person asking with only an interpretation of a response. As a result, the artist’s original vision becomes foggy to the recipient and the true source of the work is left behind and unexplained, despite its key role for the artist.

Among the ever-rapidly growing list of creative individuals in and from Minnesota, there are those with a truly spectacular view on their craft and their motivation behind it. They have shown that innovation is not a concept that they take lightly. They take their work very seriously, never faltering or giving up in their craft. Their work stands on its own, projecting the skill and confidence of its creator. These are the individuals that I began to seek out over a year ago when this project began, hoping not only to discuss their work but to discuss their creative spark, and the ingredients that come together to light it in an event that I call creative combustion.

Like a translator tasked with creating books in different languages, the task that I had placed upon myself was to interpret the artists’ thoughts and ideas and put them into my own words and photographs, going from the language of thought to the language of tangible written and visual narrative. However, my intent was not only to interpret their thoughts, but experience them. If an artist mentioned a location, I traveled there with them or met them there, or if the spark was lit by an idea or a thing, we would make sure it was present in the room before proceeding with our conversation. I wanted to understand the psychology behind their responses by experiencing the spark firsthand and capture it in photographs and words, eventually showcasing the process of creative combustion itself.

Over a year later, I, as well as a few others who have helped me in this journey and have been key contributors to the project, have had the privilege of meeting with a sample of artists from a large variety of creative fields. Painters, musicians, gallery curators, master brewers, and aerial performers are a small sampling of the types of individuals who are featured in this book, each with a unique story to tell about their work and their creative spark. It is thanks to their tireless work ethic, ability to innovate, and unique sensibilities that Minnesota is seen as a state full of creativity. Without them and their generous donation of their time and thoughts, this book, these words, and these photographs would not exist today.

Two Images

A couple of frames I took while biking around Minneapolis one Friday night recently. I didn’t set any goals for myself other than to take some photos. Biking around the cities can be liberating, not worrying about having to park, much less pay for it, gives you a new sense of freedom of movement. All of a sudden I can move from Northeast to Downtown to Uptown without paying cash. The drawback? None, unless you hate the feeling of wind in your face when you’re going across the Hennepin Avenue bridge. The freedom of biking paired with the unpredictability of what you will find in the cities whilst carrying a camera is exciting, and makes one feel alive.

Going down.
Going down.

Even if it all seems a bit blurry by the end of the night.

Unfocused
Unfocused

Old, Old, Old…

Walking back to work from lunchIt’s amazing what you can find on rolls of shot film that you’ve left lying around and forgotten about, if you do that sort of thing from time to time. My developer recently starting changing color from a nice crystal clear to an ugly, deep yellow. I needed to test out my developer before using it any more, especially since I had four rolls I wanted to go through in one day. I rummaged through to see if I had any old film lying around, I found an old roll of Ilford Delta 400 that I shot about a year ago and never got around to developing, I completely forgot what was on the roll. Since I had no clue what was on it I thought it would work out nicely for a test roll. I process the roll and find this gem on it, a one year old frame processed with year and a half old chemistry, sometimes I love my luck :)

A Year’s Worth Of Updates, pt. 2

This is the second of two posts that will attempt to summarize my work from the past year that I can show, aka my freelance work. This set is all photojournalism from a show called Face Forward: Humanity Through Art. I became the staff photographer for this organization, which is working to raise $11,000 to build a school in India. More info can be found at the following links:

Anyway, on to the photos! This first set is from the model call for Face Forward, the process in which the designers decided which people would be modeling their clothes, etc.

Waiting for their turn, the potential models stood outside the main room and made chit chat, or watched the people ahead of them give it what they’ve got on the mock runway.

The potential models giving their information to the designers so they can find out if they made the cut.

The “model” look, seeing this was pretty common during the model call.

Posing, posing, and more posing. You could tell that some people had modeled before when they had their turn.

More behind the scenes with the potentials.

The final photo from the model call that I will show here, next up are photos from the show itself. The show happened at First Avenue, the perfect venue for such an event. The event featured musicians, the models from above, spoken word artists, and dance companies.

Several of the models were used a few times for different outfits, and a few times the designer walked out with the models, as in the last photo (rightmost in the photo). Once the fashion show was over, it was on to spoken word, music and dance.

That about sums it up for the second update, hopefully I didn’t bombard too many people with a ton of photos, and again, this is old news to some, but I thought I’d update this end of the numerous amount of pages that I maintain, so those of you who only see this end, hope you enjoyed it!

Solargraph: Building Guide

So recently as an attempt to further branch out in my hobby that is photography, I stumbled upon an interesting kind of pinhole camera: a solargraph. A solargraph is a pinhole camera designed to create a six month long exposure. Yes, six months. That’s quite some time for a pinhole camera to stay in one place and do it’s thing, but the results from these things are remarkable. Here’s an example of what a solargraph could potentially do, if set up and built correctly:

I saw several different solargraph images a few months ago at a photo club I regularly attend and decided to try this out for myself. Obviously I had a lot of questions about how to do this, so for those of you looking to try building one of these yourselves, here’s a little guide to how I built mine, complete with visuals.

1. Get all of the materials needed for construction. The things I used on the camera itself are:

  • a black 35mm film canister (black is preferred, most ilford films come in black canisters if you need one)
  • aluminum from a drink can
  • black electrician’s tape
  • RC neutral toned paper, matte
  • index card cutout for the shutter flap

The materials I used to build it are:

  • scissors
  • index card (you really never know when you need one of these, turns out they’re very useful)
  • aluminum drink can
  • ruler
  • knife (a box cutter works better, I found this out later)
  • sewing needle
  • pen for marking
  • tea. Tea is good for the soul, and will help you relax if you’re the high strung type. Fortunately i’m not and it served a tasty beverage while I worked

2. Take your index card and sketch up a 1x1cm square, this will be your guide to cutting out the hole in your film canister in a bit. Once the square is cut out, place it on the film canister and secure it with some tape if you’d like.

3. Take your knife or box cutter and cut out the square using the guide you’ve just made. This can be a bit tricky, but with some patience you will get a nice square cutout in your film canister.

4. Now take your index card again, and this time draw up a 2x2cm square and cut it out. This will be used to cut out a square from the drink can. If you have an abundance of tin foil that you want to use instead of the drink can go ahead and use that, although I prefer the can’s aluminum because it’s more rigid.

5. Cut out the square from the can and proceed to make a hole in it using the sewing needle. The hole should be roughly 0.5mm in diameter, you can check this by actually measuring the diameter of your needle if you really want to, but pinholes aren’t that precise so if you’re off slightly you’ll be alright. Unfortunately the only picture I have of the hole is when it was only partially done, at least at this stage. I have a better shot coming up later.

6. Once the hole is created, place the aluminum square over the hole you just cut out in the film canister and tape it up with electrician’s tape. Make sure that the aluminum is secure once it’s taped. Go ahead and use as much tape as you need for this, a little extra security never hurt anyone, well at least not in pinhole cameras ;)

7. Create a shutter for your pinhole camera. This is as simple as taking a chunk of black tape and putting it over the pinhole, seriously. However, since my vision isn’t the greatest I needed something to distinguish my shutter from the rest of the tape that I used, so I created a small handle for it out of the index card (I told you these things are handy!) and placed it under the tape so it sticks out a bit. You people with not-so-great vision might want to do this as well.

8. Before cutting your paper down to size and inserting it under a safelight, test your design for light leaks. take off the top of the film canister and shine a flashlight at the shutter to see if any light gets through. Do this in a dark room, if you have any light leaks they’ll be more visible that way.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any visuals for these next few steps since they were done in a darkroom, but hopefully you’ll get the idea through written instruction ;)

9. In a darkroom with the safelight(s) on, take out your paper and cut it down to size. What size, you ask? Well, that depends on your film canister. Measure your film canister’s height and diameter and then use this formula: πd. That’s Pi times the diameter for the circumference. This will be your short end of your paper rectangle, and the height you measured will be the longer end.

10. Next, mark your paper with the dimensions you figured out in the last step and cut out the paper. Adjust for how much space your canister’s cap takes up, and for the pinhole.

11. Insert the paper into the canister, covering all of the inside surface area except for the pinhole. Close the canister (make sure it closes easily, you don’t want to ruin your paper) and use a lot of electrician’s tape to hold the cap secure.

12. Congratulations! The building portion of the project is complete, now comes the setup. Choose a day to start the exposure. Most people like to start these on the summer solstice or the winter solstice, but hey sometimes you just can’t make those times, nothing wrong with experimentation!

13. Set up the camera. Have it face south if you’re in the northern hemisphere and north if you’re in the southern hemisphere. Setting up outside can be tricky, for six months it has to weather the elements so get creative with how you want to protect your camera and keep it sturdy. Gluing pencils either horizontally or vertically is a great way to mount a camera if you’re attaching it to something like a pole, but there are a million ways to do this.

14. Once the camera is set up take off the shutter and wait. Check on the camera occasionally to make sure it’s still doing it’s thing. After 6 months, put the shutter back on and bring the pinhole camera back to the darkroom.

15. Next up is the tricky part. Once the camera is back, go to your computer room and switch off all of the lights. Make sure that your scanner is set to a pretty high resolution (900+ DPI should do it), take the paper out of the canister and without developing it hit “scan” on your scanner. Make sure the paper is flat of course. (Don’t ask me how this step even works, because I have no idea!)

16. Open up photoshop or whatever editing program you use and bring the image there. Invert the colors and flip the image if you need to, and play around with the brightness/contrast settings if you wish.

That’s it! You’ve just completed your six month long journey with solargraphs. Not too bad, and you can do it all at home for free, granted you have access to a safelight of course ;) That’s all for now, happy solargraph making!

Nicollet Mall, I Dub Thee Changeling

Nicollet Mall has to be one of the most dynamic streets in the center of Minneapolis, throughout any given week the street undergoes vast changes from event to event that takes place there. Every Thursday is the Farmer’s Market, news crews like to film there, protests happen, and the outdoor cafes and bars attract different crowds of people at different times of the day. I’ve been shooting this street for over a year now and have captured a lot of it’s personalities, but since I work downtown during the summer I get to see a side of Nicollet Mall that I haven’t seen before, at least not very often or regularly as I do now: Corporate lunch breaks. Around noon, when I take my own lunch break the street is teeming with corporate figures dressed up in business casual and/or suits who are sitting outside, walking about, checking their blackberries (a million of these things come out at this time), or there are even those who i’ve caught doing some photography of their own. Nicollet Mall is indeed a changeling, a street with multiple personalities that one can capture still frames from over and over again, in many styles of photography.

This was taken on a particularly quiet day outside, it was raining slightly which would explain the lack of people, the faint of heart don’t go outside when it rains, or maybe that’s just business types with nice clothes on. Others though, just need that smoke break. I particularly like her choice of location for her break, the mannequien behind her mimics her pose nicely, or is it the other way around?

I noticed quite a few differences between the groups of people at the tables here, I won’t give away what I saw though. See if you can find them for yourself, a nice little visual exercise for you morning blog readers. I personally fit into that category, at work as soon as my laptop comes out I check all of my live bookmarks, the mornings at work can be quite slow so why not?

I love the Barnes and Noble on Nicollet for this exact reason. I can go in there with my camera, sit down and just observe. There aren’t many cafes where you can do that comfortably anymore, I sure as hell know Starbucks doesn’t like it. I’ve never been ushered out of a cafe yet, but you just get that feeling sometimes about those places. Something about protection of it’s customers or something, as if i’m gonna kill them by taking their photo or something, I don’t know. Anyway, this man was so engrossed in this pile of papers he was going through, it looked like he brought his entire mailbox with him to the cafe and decided to read every unopened letter he had received in the past few weeks. He didn’t notice me sitting at the table next to him, he just kept reading all of his mail, he was in his own little world.

Pre-focusing kicks ass, especially when you’re trying to get away from taking photos exclusively at eye level. I had the camera in my hand here and was looking for an opening in the crowd that tends to roam Nicollet Mall during lunch, and got one. I didn’t actually check my screen (yes, this was with my digital, gotta show my 50mm f/1.8 some love on occasion) until an hour later, found this gem on my card. Once again, pre-focusing kicks ass.

Taken shortly after the shot above, I stopped to pre-focus slightly farther away than before since I wanted a bit more in the scene. I left the camera in my hands again, this time held slightly higher than before. The look my camera got from her is pretty typical. Most people don’t say anything about it though, there’s Minnesota Nice for you.

I love the different ethnic groups of people that congregate at the Farmer’s Market every week. It makes Nicollet Mall look slightly foreign, which is a nice change from the business “daily grind” persona it usually has on most of my lunch hours. The Farmer’s Market always makes the street seem almost NYC-esque as well, it manages about twice the usual traffic during the time I’m out there as well, which is especially nice for me, I’m not approached nearly as much. This group of people was squeezing fruit and talking amongst themselves trying to find the best bargain.

A conversation on one side, and a guy staring at me on the other. He didn’t see me until I was actually framing this shot, once again he did nothing about it, just chilled next to the ad on the wall and drank his coffee. Who drinks coffee when it’s 80 degrees and sunny anyway? While wearing a suit no less, I don’t get that. All these people come out into the sun, with hot coffee. Why not get at least an iced coffee or something cold?

Another hip shot, this time quite literally from the hip. I was walking by one of the outside sections of a semi-fancy restaurant that gets frequented during this time for obvious reasons. his drink, whatever it is, looked good at the time, I was thirsty, and wanted some. I have some mystery hands in there too, go ahead and make up a story about who it is if you’d like.

I usually like to see my subject’s faces before taking their photo, I feel like even though i’m not talking to them I’m at least interacting with them, even if it’s indirect most of the time. A face can tell a lot about a person. What they’re feeling, where they’ve been, etc. and I like to get that from people before I compose and shoot, so I get at least the tiniest sense of who they are, or could be. This woman was different though, I probably stood in the spot I was standing here for about ten or so minutes, looking in her direction on and off. I took this shot about three minutes into my slow domination of my space, but hoped for a better one, thinking she would turn around. She never did. She looked at the clothing that was for sale outside next to the market, and walked away with her back turned to me.

I never got to see her face.

I left this one in color, I rather like it that way. Saw this guy standing about 10 feet away from me smoking. It’s not really a remarkable shot, but I felt like taking it, and when I looked at it it came out so nicely that I decided to keep it. I made it this blog’s header, even. Other than that I don’t have much to say for this shot, just a guy smoking.

Nicollet Mall, please continue to be this way forever.

Minneapolis Nights

It’s always interesting to see how a city changes throughout the day. Different people come out, different places become popular while other streets become deserted, at least that’s how it is around here in Minneapolis from personal observation. Well, I take the people part back, some of the people are the same, but are just “dressed to impress” on weekends ;) A city is a living, breathing creature that seems to have a mind of it’s own, trying to understand an entire city is probably impossible to do without getting at the little nuances of it. Experiencing each street, each streetside store, cafe, etc. and really letting the place sink in, and only then will you begin to understand it, I don’t think you can ever fully understand any place, at least not in words. With images probably, with words no. I feel like every time I’m out with my camera I’m not only creating artwork but I’m also documenting my increasing understanding of how Minneapolis works, what makes it tick. With that in mind, a lot of these next shots were taken in the same place, the warehouse district to be exact, at a certain time frame: 11pm to about 1am. I’ve been out at night in that place before, but never with a camera. Being a bystander really changes your perspective on what you think you know about a place, you take the passenger seat as opposed to the driver’s seat in the journey, it was an interesting outing.

All photos taken with a Pentax ME Super, 50mm f/1.7, Tri-X EI 1600 and developed in Diafine.

This shot is my favorite from the night, by far. It’s amazing that amongst all of what goes in the warehouse district this split second happened, right in front of me. I mean, what are the odds? It’s weird to think about photographs that way, the odds of that exact frame being right in front of you at that exact time. Everything was right on here, which surprised nobody more than myself because I don’t even remember taking this, and when that happens it usually means nothing good came out. The Tri-X and Diafine comination really shines here too.

Juxtaposed

Some guys decided to dick around when the saw my camera, whatever. It happens, but moments like the one happening directly to their left aren’t as easy to come across in that area at night.

Double Take

She was probably bar hopping, and then decided to look back where she came from, I think she was looking at me. I don’t remember any more, but the shot seems to suggest that she was.

Close to Far

A “geometric” moment no doubt, one of those things you stumble across when just standing around a place looking about.

Bar Guys

Walked past these guys a few times, they asked my friend and I to take their picture both times I think, this was right before that happened. They were having some drunken conversation beforehand, saw us and just had to capture themselves on camera, as a lot of drunks oh so love to do.

Light Rail Conversation

Another geometric moment, this was happening across the street from a few bars. The light rail is one of my favorite subjects to photograph because of the constant crowd change going on. It’s like a street corner, but much larger.